Pianist Mitsuko Uchida is one of the most revered artists of our time. With the launch of her three-season Perspectives series, Uchida treats audiences to some of the repertoire for which she is most renowned. Her versatility, vision, and depth of interpretation are showcased in solo and concerto performances, in her long-term collaboration with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and in a master class with aspiring musicians. In an interview at Carnegie Hall, Uchida compared the musical styles of two of her favorite composers and also shed light on what she appreciates about performing at the Hall.
In the first year of your Perspectives series, you focus on music by Mozart and Beethoven. How would you characterize each composer’s works?
The center of my repertoire will always be Mozart and Beethoven in addition to Schubert. The difference between Beethoven and Mozart is that Beethoven is confrontational within his music. Mozart, however, is not about confrontation. His music is about conversation and happiness and joy and sorrow and life.
This season, you perform two concertos by Mozart, whose solo works have also figured prominently in your career. Do you have a preference?
Mozart wrote so many wonderful pieces, but for me his concerti are infinitely deeper and varied, and each is an instrumental opera. On a personal level, it is such a pleasure to be able to play his concerti with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
Prior to your concert with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, you perform a solo recital of Beethoven piano sonatas.
To be performing the last three sonatas of Beethoven is a great thrill for me. I spent a solid 10 years working on his Diabelli Variations, which nearly killed me—that is one of the most complex pieces of music ever written for piano. After that I asked myself, “What do I want to do next?” And the answer was Beethoven’s last three sonatas. Whereas Mozart is so direct, so human, Beethoven’s greatness is his absolute grand vision of the universe.
For nearly, 30 years, you have held leadership positions at Marlboro Music in Vermont, where master artists freely exchange ideas with emerging professional musicians. Will that same approach inform the format of your Carnegie Hall master class?
I have learned more from everybody at Marlboro than anybody has ever learned from me, so I don’t want my master class to become an event about me. I won’t teach. I won’t say that much. I might push a little bit this way, push a little bit that way, but I want the other pianists and me to recreate the music together.
You have been an audience favorite at Carnegie Hall for decades. What makes a performance at the Hall special for you?
One thing is clear: Carnegie Hall is magic. Most gigantic halls demand pianists to play loudly, and Carnegie doesn’t. Here you can whisper. And that—allowing me the ability to whisper on stage—is why I adore Carnegie Hall.
Mitsuko Uchida will perform at Carnegie Hall February 24 and March 9. She will teach a master class March 1.